My quarry was in sight.  After years of searching, the biggest prize of all would soon be mine.  Mine!  I thought back on how I had arrived at this point.

It was purely by accident.  I had been cruising the internet, casually checking out events of interest.  A rather ordinary picture scrolled across the screen. I looked idly, preparing to move on when there, in the corner, I caught a glimpse of it.  I thought I saw…but no, it couldn’t be.  Could it?  I froze the screen and tried to enlarge it, but at that magnification it was nothing but fuzzy pixels on the screen.  I couldn’t tell.  It LOOKED like it might be my quarry.  But it was hiding, way in the back, behind the more ordinary specimens that had been the subject of the photo.  I scanned the description, but nothing was said about the one in the back.  Could it be that no-one else had spotted it?  That nobody else realized how rare a specimen it was?

Feverishly I read the details.  There was to be a hunt, but it was not for several days, and it was far from home.  What did that matter?  No distance was too great to travel for the chance to bag my prize.

Time dragged.  I thought the day would never come, but Saturday dawned at last.  I was up with the sun and in my car.  Mile upon dusty mile I trekked across the barren wilderness.  Hour after hour.  I saw the signs directing me to the hunting grounds when I pulled off the highway.   I had arrived at last.

I sat in my car for a moment, enjoying the thrill of anticipation.  It seemed that the gods had smiled upon me, and today I would bag the big prize.  I grabbed my gear.  A-hunting I would go.

The place was noisy and brightly lit, crowded with other hunters stalking through specimens of every species, shape and color.  It was a veritable zoo!  At last I spotted the grouping from the photo and approached, heart beating in my chest.  I passed up the ordinary creatures in the front, my trembling hand reaching for the rare specimen I had glimpsed in the back row.  I grasped it, lifted it to my searching eyes and…and…

It wasn’t my prize.

It wasn’t the Joe St. Clair glass rose paperweight from the 1970s.  It was nothing but an ordinary blob of glass with a plastic rose stuck in the middle.

Disappointment rose like bitter gall in my throat.  I turned away.  I made a quick circuit of the rest of the barn, and then left the auction I had traveled hours to attend without a backward glance.  There was nothing there for me.  I didn’t bag the paperweight I had intended as a Christmas present for my sister, Mary Kay, and which would have been the pride of her collection.  Nor did I find:

  • the Napco lady-head vase from the 50s with red hair and an off-the-shoulder blouse that looked uncannily like my Aunt Carol, which my cousin Kathy admired at an antique shop but wouldn’t spend $600 for.
  • the “Big Bertha” 4 quart vintage medium blue Pyrex casserole dish with lid, in mint condition, for my co-worker, Dawn.
  • The 1930s unsigned Miriam Haskell intricately jeweled matching parure of necklace, brooch and earrings that would set my own heart aflutter.

I was disappointed as I made the two hour + drive back home, but undaunted.  There was always next Saturday.  And, after all, the best thing about collecting is the thrill of the hunt.

Do you collect anything?  Is there one, special piece on your radar?  Do you want me to keep an eye out for it?